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Melanoma caregiver aims to give back

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120805JenniferAImpost.JPGBy Jennifer Martin

I'm a 33-year-old, stay-at-home mother of two and a caregiver to my husband, Steven, who is battling stage IV melanoma. Following his diagnosis, I've become dedicated to melanoma awareness. I help educate others through blogs, blood drives, participating in melanoma fundraisers and any other way to spread the word. Follow us at martinfamilyjourney.blogspot.com.

When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer there are many different thoughts and emotions you experience. 

First, you go through shock. How did this happen? Why did this happen? Why us? 

After the initial shock, you want to learn as much as you can about the type of cancer your loved one has. Then, you immediately want to find a cure. 

You want to help your loved one. Help raise awareness, help raise funds for research and help find a cure.

That is where I found myself in January when my husband, Steven, was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma. I went through shock and then began endless nights of research. 

I read blogs, medical journals, studies, etc. Then I came across the AIM at Melanoma Foundation website. I spent a lot of time on its site reading about the different stages of melanoma and the latest treatments for each stage of the disease. 

I joined its forum, where you can read and/or post questions or even just vent to others who are going through the same thing. 

The AIM at Melanoma Foundation is a huge asset to the melanoma community.

A way to help
Steven had his first round of biochemotherapy in February. It was a scary time for both of us. I spent many days/afternoons/evenings/nights walking the halls of the 10th floor, which is dedicated to melanoma treatment

One afternoon I stopped to look at the information and announcement bulletin board. It had many "thank you" letters from patients, pictures, etc., but one thing caught my eye. A portion of the bulletin board had pictures from a fundraiser in 2011. 

This fundraiser was sponsored by MD Anderson and AIM at Melanoma. This was it, I thought, a way to help and through such a fantastic foundation. 

I needed to spread awareness and I needed to be proactive in raising money to find a cure for this horrible disease that had been thrust upon my family. 

In the 2011 fundraiser, more than $90,000 was raised. I wanted to be a part of that.

I immediately went back to the room and pulled up AIM at Melanoma's website. I was excited to see there was a walk in May in Galveston. My daughter, my nephew and I immediately began soliciting donations from family and friends. Between us, we raised more than $3,000.

This is exactly what I needed -- to feel something positive from all of this. 

I met some wonderful people at the walk. There were people walking in remembrance of a loved one. There were melanoma warriors walking, family of melanoma warriors walking, and there were caring people who had no connection to melanoma but just wanted to help.

Join us

The Galveston walk was small in comparison to the walk coming up in Houston on Sept. 22. This walk will be big. Lots of money has already been raised and, hopefully, we can surpass the amount raised in 2011. Mike Zizka with Fox 26 will be emceeing the event. There will be two guest speakers who I'm very excited about. 

First is Jeffrey Lee, M.D., chair of the Department of Surgical Oncology at MD Anderson. Dr. Lee performed a very invasive surgery on my husband in June. I have nothing but the utmost respect for him. 

Second, Jean Schlipmann, co-founder of the AIM at Melanoma Foundation, will be speaking. She's an amazing person and is doing amazing things in the melanoma world. I'm very excited to hear her speak.

Please come out and show your support on Sept. 22. There will be entertainment, free skin cancer screenings, sunscreen application demos, a kid's corner and much more.
Join us in raising funds, spreading awareness and finding a cure.

For more information, please visit http://www.aimatmelanoma.org/en/aim-for-action/1158/1159/houston-2012.html.

Read more posts by Jennifer Martin

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